‘Unfrosted’ Movie Review: A Forgettable and Occasionally Funny Satire

Satirical and meta comedies can be hard to deliver effectively. Classics like Monty Python and The Holy GrailThe Truman Show, and the overall work of Mel Brooks revolutionized the concept. Now, those comedies have been ushered in for a new generation. Films like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox StoryCocaine Bear, and Weird: The Al Yankovic Story took the trend in the other direction. Those films took primarily true stories and made them veer into heightened realities. Now Netflix is attempting the same feat, telling the story of the creation of Pop-Tart with Unfrosted.

Set in 1963, Battle Creek, Michigan, Unfrosted tells the story of the battle for Breakfast cereal dominance between Post Cereal and Kellogg teams. This involves the race to market a revolutionary breakfast pastry, eventually known as the Pop-Tart. Both teams must recruit the best of the best in their fields to make this a battle of the ages. With a cast including Jerry Seinfeld (who also directs, writes, and produces the film), Melissa McCarthyAmy SchumerJim Gaffigan, and Hugh Grant (to name a few), the potential is ripe for success. That begs the question, does Unfrosted succeed in those ambitions?

Unfrosted: A New Generation of Absurdist Comedy?

In these broad comedies, saying that “the cast looks like they’re having fun” can be damning with faint praise. A cast that looks like they are having “fun” can mean the story lacks focus. In the case of Unfrostedthat serves as a blessing for this silly and over-the-top story. Here, the film is at its best when Seinfield allows the cast to improvise. Performers like McCarthy and Gaffigan strive with that idea, making the most of the material. The same could be said for the numerous celebrity cameos.

Unfrosted offers a cavalcade of surprising and entirely unexpected appearances. To spoil them would ruin some of the film’s best moments. Such an array of comedic talent helps make the most of the material. While these cameos have some funny and genuine surprises, they are delivered with mixed results. It’s great to see a lot of these performers in over-the-top performances. Each one is capable and does what they can to complete the script’s mission. 

Uneven Comedic Momentum in Unfrosted

No matter the runtime, Unfrosted struggles to maintain a consistent comedic momentum. The film struggles with its goal of garnering constant laughs. The consistent laughs start with  Bob Cabana’s (Seinfeld) setup, which involves getting his team together. These early moments are where the narrative soars. Seinfeld’s deadpan delivery blends seamlessly with folks like Gaffigan and McCarthy. In such moments, their banter makes early cameos feel like welcome additions. 

As the film progresses, a frustrating and repetitive quality begins to form. There comes a certain point when these cameos are the sole “joke” of the film. While funny initially, the “joke” loses momentum as the story progresses, making the 96-minute running time feel like a slog. Such a sensation is frustrating, especially with some of the film’s standout performances. This includes a particular running gag that involves the numerous cereal mascots. Hugh Grant leads the charge as Thurl Ravenscroft, a British stage actor cast as the beloved mascot Tony The Tiger. Grant delivers an entertaining self-seriousness in his role, contrasting the knowingly silly story. It’s a welcome companion to the film’s other performances, which teeter more into parody.

Around the 45-minute to 1-hour mark, the story runs out of steam. The cast undeniably gives it their all, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t laugh. Some cameos in this later half will almost certainly deliver the comedic goods. There’s never a point that Unfrosted becomes a dull affair. The problem resides in the screenplay losing sight of the goal of making audiences laugh, instead focusing on the actors making each other laugh. What starts as continuous belly laughs morphs into more low-key and intermittent chuckles. That issue stems from a screenplay suffering from several conflicting voices.

Unfrosted’s Screenplay Struggles to Find its Footing

Unfrosted is written by Spike Feresten (Seinfeld), Andy Robin (Seinfeld), Barry Marder (Bee Movie), and Jerry Seinfeld. Much like the cast striving to make each other laugh, that sensation feels similar in the writing. Throughout the film, the writing focuses on one-up-manship in the comedy, with everyone spewing jokes. These include juvenile “laughs” that aren’t as funny as they think they are. Those simple and sometimes juvenile laughs could be enough for some viewers. Meanwhile, others could simply roll their eyes at the childish antics on display. That leaves only one question in viewers’ eyes: Why does the film exist?

If Unfrosted was meant as a silly comedy, it only delivers in spades. With a cast of this caliber, it would be easy for some to forgive the narrative shortcomings. For the most part, a genuine sense of fun remains on display. The problem is that a “sense of fun” can only be practical for so long. At a certain point, there needs to be a focus on more varied and more competent laughs.

Anyone wanting to watch Unfrosted is not looking for a profound history lesson of the creation of Pop-Tarts. They simply wish for a silly comedy with the sole goal of making audiences laugh. The film delivers those moments in intermediate spades. The cast is more than capable but needs to have underwritten material. The jokes of Unfrosted succeed in both pop culture and historical (past/present) references. That joking style can make for a somewhat silly and occasionally effective satirical comedy.  But the finished product feels like an unbalanced breakfast when that is the only joke on display. 

Unfrosted is now streaming on Netflix.

Learn more about the film at Netflix’s website.

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